Plate-Wise •  9/7/2021

Three conversation starters to use at the farmers market

Written By Michelle Sandbulte 
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A bag of assorted vegetables hanging.

One of my favorite places to go on a weeknight or weekend is my local farmers market. Originally created to cut out the “middle man” — otherwise known as the grocery store — farmers markets are a great place to provide fresh produce, meat, dairy and baked goods straight from the farmers and providers themselves.

But now these markets are so much more than an outdoor grocery store — they’re a communitywide destination. In addition to local farmers, you may see everything from crafters, food pantries and local organizations asking for donations to the dog park. They show off the great growers in our backyards while allowing us to indulge ourselves. I mean, who doesn’t love a Dutch letter at 11 a.m. or want to try jasmine-flavored cotton candy at 7 p.m.?

But to me as a mom, farmers markets are a great way for me to showcase how food is produced to my kids. Farmers markets provide an opportunity to show our kids what multiple tomato varieties look like or why there are so many colors of raspberries. They also give kids the ability to talk with a farmer and ask them why do they do what they do. For these producers, farming is much more than a job; it’s a way a life.

If you ask me what I do, I’ll probably tell you I work in marketing. If you ask me who I am, I’ll probably tell you I’m a mom or a wife or I might say I am a weightlifter. You might see a businesswoman or you might see someone with a sleeve tattoo and pink hair. But if you ask a farmer what they do, they’ll usually tell you first and foremost that they are a farmer. It’s also who they are. It’s in their blood.

It’s important to show this to our children for them to understand this important way of life. To understand what farmers do for us. They don’t just raise cows and grow vegetables or fruit. They provide a future for us. A future in which we can sustain ourselves.

Here are a few conversation starters I used with my kids when they were younger to help them make a connection to what’s being offered at the farmers market.

Farmers market conversation starters

  1. How do you think these are harvested? Regardless of the produce, your kids can ask the vendor about the methods taken to harvest sweet corn, potatoes or lettuces. They can ask about equipment used or how many people help pick the produce in the fields.
  2. What is grown to make a baked good? Help kids realize that their favorite snacks and treats are created with a variety of crops.
  3. Ask the farmers about themselves! What is their favorite produce? Why do they love their job so much? Getting to know these farmers and growers on a one-to-one level helps kids understand how inherent their job is to their way of life.

In addition to encouraging my children to try a new food they’ve never seen or heard of before, I check to see if there are any kid-friendly games or literature to pick up at my farmers market’s info booth. For instance, some farmers markets have a bingo sheet to help kids identify produce or give away tokens for kids to redeem at farmers stands each week to buy produce of their choice. All of this can help kids better understand how food gets to their table. It also goes a long way to helping raise a generation of kids who love mussels (like my son) and tajin-flavored candy (like my daughter).

It’s our job as parents to help our kids understand and build a healthy relationship with food. Providing them with the opportunity to be inquisitive about food and where it comes from is an invaluable way to create a meaningful connection with the world around them.

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Michelle Sandbulte

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